A moment of crystal-clear awareness

16 07 2012

Sliding into the thinly plush chair behind the large desk (progressively situated in a corner of the room—still a front corner, but facing the door, perpendicular to the whiteboard, so that the collectively created store of information and ideas that populate that board, not the large desk and its denizen, each day take center stage), taking my first sip of milky, slightly sweet tea from a plastic travel mug that will always also bear the bitter echo of years of transporting coffee, I let my eyes wander around the room to verify the thing that I already know, and will be certain of no matter what they find.

It’s not my room, but one I’m borrowing from a full-time teacher for a week-long summer course, so they’re not my six industrial wood-colored-veneered, metal-legged, and plastic-bumpered tables, not my eighteen mismatched metal-and-formica chairs arranged in a u-shape to best allow whatever students will later inhabit them to see and interact with one another with more ease than they’ll be able to see what they help put up on the board. It’s not my wall of wall-bracket bookshelves, giant 10’x8″s overloaded on one end with stacks of dictionaries and then sparsely inhabited by a few leaning marches of assorted anthologies, textbooks, novels, and works of nonfiction. It’s not my lonely plastic magazine holder off to one side, trying to accomplish a sort of impossible balancing, being only the thickness of one of the dictionaries and only ¾ full anyway, or my cork-board with one puzzle and a few of last year’s handouts still attached, or my file cabinet covered with empty magnetic clips, and it’s certainly not my Bruce Springstein poster, printed blurrily from a small digital image onto an oversized sheet of white paper, taped to the wall nearest the large desk, like some inside joke that each year’s students has to wade through to get to know Pat, whose room this is, and who they’ll never call by that name.

Bruce, nonetheless, is a clue, a little window into who she is beyond their teacher, and it will matter. So is the collection of fairy tales on the smaller, more moveable bookshelves between the windows; likewise the other posters: one of the Cheshire Cat, one of flora mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays, one small, book-sized print of an illustration of Little Red Riding Hood. And it’s not my round, white-faced school-clock over the door, whispering the seconds into the empty room. That these are her things instead of mine in no way limits what I can see, however, neither the physical promise of where and how I might arrange my things, if this were my room instead, nor the mental certainty that that hypothetical will not remain hypothetical forever. I may be walking away for a while, or, at this point, more accurately, ″waddling,″ to seek for a few years a different calling (teachers being inherent lovers of learning, I’m convinced I’m going to spend them developing expert hands at cloth-diapering, food-milling, and all sorts of metaphorical and actual juggling), but somehow, the path will lead back to classrooms.

As I’ve typed, there’s been, over my shoulder, a sort of nagging false-certainty about what’s outside the windows behind this chair. In the peculiar way minds do, mine has been trying to fill in scenery from another town, in another state, a decade-and-a-half away from here, but it hasn’t fooled me. I know exactly where it wants me to believe I am, and exactly why: the parking lot and trees-beyond flickering around the edges of my understanding of my own locale (wet, and bearing the colors of another season) are the view from the window of the classroom I was a student in for almost all of my Education courses at my university—they’re the scene of progressing from intention to being equipped and certified to sit at desks exactly like this one, in the morning stillness, before students arrive and the space leaps to life, the desk-chair left behind to spin on its squeaky axle. The writer in me must sit in desk-chairs, frowning over the selection and the ordering of words, but there’s a teacher always in me too, for whom the desk is only the staging-area of before and after (and, often, a mid-discussion perch, where my short legs swing in lieu of pacing, while the day’s ideas unfold).

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